Expected outcomes of healthy coping strategies

If we do everything right, we'll be happy and never again experience stress, right?

Nah, that's actually very far from the truth.

Instead, when we deal with stressful challenges in a smart way, the outcome may be fewer stress symptoms, but a stress-free life will never happen.

Sometimes we are scared of being stressed. The numerous times we've heard that stress is harmful to our systems takes its toll. This is true for some cases of long-term stress problems. And the answer seems obvious – get rid of stress and you'll be fine. But humans aren't built like that.

Our brains and bodies have evolved to help us survive – and the stress reaction is a very important piece of that puzzle. Also, a certain amount of stress is a necessity for us to feel engaged, motivated and happy. So what can we actually expect if we do everything right according to science?

Say we exercise regularly, keep healthy sleeping and eating routines, prioritize social and fun recovery activities, don't work outside work hours, take real breaks every working hour, feel in control of our work situation and have clear priorities. Those things should be really helpful for our stress levels – and they are. Strategies like that will help you take care of yourself and reduce stress symptoms. But we are not alone, and everything is not within our power. So no matter how smart we are in dealing with stress, we cannot expect a stress-free life.
    The following are reasonable outcomes of healthy coping strategies
    Severe stress symptoms go down.

    Digestion problems, long-term heart palpitations, shallow breathing, concentration difficulties, memory problems, and tunnel vision are examples of things that may happen when we have been in a stressful situation for a long time without enough recovery. Us coping with our situation in a better way often decreases symptoms.
    Feeling of control increases.

    When we take charge of our situation, our feeling of control is often expected to rise. A sense of knowing that we're doing our best to take care of ourselves, knowing what's expected of us from work and a sense that we have the resources needed (alone or together with others) to deal with the situation may increase.
    We will still experience stress.

    No matter how good we are at coping with stress, we will still have it. Why?

    • There will be unforeseen events – people will get sick, deadlines can be moved, resources may change, there may be conflicts among colleagues.

    • There will be things outside of our control that affect us – the planet will struggle for survival, the political situation may be tense, the economy may take a downward turn.

    • We are made for waves of stress coming and going, it's just in our anatomy.
    So, there is no reason to worry if we are doing everything within our power to lead a less stressful life and still experience stress. Changing what we can and accepting what we can't is one way of dealing with it.

    And remember that we are all part of a bigger system (family, team, organization, city, society, country, world), that a lot of times may not be designed for us to experience less stress. Changing systems is naturally harder than changing your own behavior. But all changes need to start somewhere, and if we lead by example we might just inspire others to do the same.
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